After two weeks of the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have several players that are either surprising or disappointing. Ultimately though, on cut down day, Mike Tomlin and his staff will have some difficult decisions to make. The best part of the preseason is seeing the roster take shape. Seeing who comes out of nowhere to have an impact, and who falls by the wayside. The competition for roster spots at wide receiver might be the most interesting of the summer. The most critical decisions, however, could come at running back and out of the secondary. Steelers player report cards takes a look at how some of these roster hopefuls are faring.
Preseason Week Three: Pittsburgh Steelers Player Report Cards
Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, and Sammie Coates are almost certain locks for roster spots. That leaves Darius Heyward-Bey, Cobi Hamilton, Justin Hunter, and Demarcus Ayers competing for one, maybe two spots. With all of the talent at the position there is a chance, although highly unlikely, that the Steelers keep seven receivers. Another scenario that could play out is that the Steelers put Heyward-Bey on season ending injured reserve. It isn’t an unheard of move for the Steelers, who did it with Canaan Severin last season.
Steelers Player Report Cards: Darius Heyward-Bey
Heyward-Bey’s greatest value to the Steelers is his leadership in the receivers room. He’s very fast, a solid gunner on the kick coverage unit, but doesn’t contribute much in the passing game. To this point in the preseason he has two dropped passes, one reception for six yards and suffered an injury. After comparing what he offers to his production, it’s hard to justify a spot for him on the final roster. Pay him to be on season ending I.R. for his leadership? Sure. To keep him based on production? That’s too hard to Justify. Grade C-
Steelers Player Report Cards: Cobi Hamilton
With all the talented receivers he’s competing against, Hamilton isn’t expected to be apart of the 53 man roster. He is supposed to be auditioning for other teams until he gets cut. When he gets on the field though, all Hamilton does is make big plays, averaging 36 yards on his two receptions. Out of five passes thrown his way during his only game action, only those two were catchable. The Steelers expect their players to produce when called upon, and Hamilton has complied. Grade B+
Steelers Player Report Cards: Demarcus Ayers
It’s tough for anyone to compete when they are unable to practice or play. Despite all the talent and potential they may possess, roster spots are won on the field, not the trainers table. Ayers provided a glimpse of what he could be late last season, which means nothing at the moment. When healthy enough to compete, Ayers has a lot ground to make up to earn a roster spot. Entering week three of the preseason, Ayers is on the outside looking in. Grade F
Steelers Player Report Cards: Justin Hunter
When the Steelers signed Justin Hunter following his release from the Buffalo Bills, they hoped to unleash his potential. The biggest question surrounding Hunter during his career has been his work ethic. Since coming to Pittsburgh, it appears his work ethic is catching up to his talent.
Hunter, by all accounts, has had a pretty good camp. He has put in extra work and has done everything asked of him with enthusiasm. The effort he put forth to reach the end zone, against the Atlanta Falcons, showed a lot of heart. The only real knock against Hunter is not being an ideal candidate for special teams duty. Grade B+
Steelers Player Report Cards: Running Backs
The top three running back spots are about locked up by Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, and Knile Davis. Third year man Fitzgerald Toussaint is looking to claim the fourth spot. To this point, besides a 14 yard run and a decent kick return, Toussaint has disappointed in limited playing time. He hasn’t been able to create his own yards, and badly whiffed on a block that resulted in a sack. For all of the effort he has put in thus far, his production is sorely lacking. While Toussaint may be likeable, the name of the game is production. Grade D
Steelers Player Report Cards: Terrell Watson
Terrell Watson has only seen action in one preseason game, showing a good blend of power and speed. Watson showed he was just as able to create his own holes up the middle as he was to run outside. His eight yard run between the right guard and tackle displayed his bruising power. Watson’s 15 yard touchdown run around the left end showed good speed for a man his size. Watson is an intriguing prospect who has earned more opportunities in the final two preseason games. Grade A-
Steelers Player Report Cards: Cornerback
The Steelers young cornerback out of Ole Miss made three plays that impacted the first two preseason games. Mike Hilton has been all over the field the last two weeks, forcing a fumble, recovering one, and sacking quarterbacks. He may be undersized, but he is physical and scrappy. Most importantly he is healthy, unlike Senquez Golson, the other Ole Miss cornerback. Hilton has taken full advantage of Golson’s misfortune, and has made the most of it. He is playing with a chip on his shoulders and has no plans to go away anytime soon. Grade A
With about a week left until the final roster is set, time’s running out for those on the bubble. For others, their fate is sealed, and the Turk is on the way. With two preseason games left, there is still time to help make decisions harder for the coaching staff. Time to see who has given up, and who has some fight left in them.